A Hot Wind in August plus 13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories – Part 2!

Melodie Campbell

The fall promises to be hot for the Mesdames! Mme Melodie Campbell, our Queen of Comedy, has just announced her new book, Worst Date Ever! Just looking at the rogues gallery on the cover will make you dial 911 for help but failing that you can pre-order it from Amazon. Worst Date Ever launches soon so check Mesdames on the Move for September for details.

 

And mark your calendars: on Labour Day weekend you can meet Melodie in person at the Women Killing It event in Picton ON. Check the FB page here for details.  Again more details in our September newsletter.

 

And congratulations to Mme Rosemary McCracken who was Imajin’s best-selling author in July for her Pat Tierney mystery, Safe Harbour. Full details here.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is Part 2 of the preview of the stories in our upcoming anthology, 13 Claws.

M. H. Callway

Snake Oil by M. H. Callway

Madeleine H. Callway writes crime fiction novels, novellas and short stories. Her work has won or been short-listed for numerous awards, including the Derringer and the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel award.

In her noir novella, “Snake Oil”, a real estate intern with a fear of snakes learns how vulnerable a lone woman can be in a stranger’s house.

“I—I was bitten by a snake.” Bella could barely get the words out. The memory charged at her in irregular flashes, like crumpled black-and-white photographs. “I walking on the beach by our cottage. I felt something sharp. Like I’d stepped on a piece of glass.”

She felt Amelia’s slanted eyes on her like a pressure. She must stop talking, she was being horribly unprofessional, but she couldn’t stop the eruption of her words any more than she could stop the winter wind pummeling her car. “Robert, my stepson, wanted to take me to the hospital. Barry, my ex, thought it was nothing. That I was overreacting . He said I’d stepped on a garter snake, but when it…when it rustled away in the leaves, it looked much bigger. And it had black spots, not stripes.”

“But you’re still here, Bella, alive and healthy.”

Bella’s words stormed out with the rush of remembering. “My leg swelled up. The pain was excruciating. Robert took me to the hospital. Barry wouldn’t…he didn’t believe me.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’d stepped on a Massasauga rattler. The doctors had to inject me with antivenom. They had a hard time finding enough of the antidote, because poisonous snake bites are so rare in Ontario. Antivenom  goes off if it’s stored too long. I—I nearly lost my leg.”

“Sounds like your divorce was a good idea,” Amelia said after a time. “Feel better for sharing?”

 

Melodie Campbell

Dog Trap and The Coffee Tin, both by Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell is a master of flash fiction with many awards to her credit, including the Arthur Ellis and Derringer. She is the author of the hilarious Goddaughter series of crime novels. Though she’s our reigning Queen of Comedy, her two stories in 13 Claws, “Dog Trap” and “The Coffee Tin”, have a darker edge.

In “Dog Trap”, a lonely man worries about the friend he met on an internet dating site and in “The Coffee Tin”, a homeless teenager finds a companion and maybe a friend…

From “Dog Trap”:

It wasn’t her.

Rick knew it now, scrolling through email messages, stopping on the last one. The words were there, purportedly from her, but written by someone else. Now he was certain. The trap had been set, and he had proof.

He slumped back in the worn gray swivel chair to think. And mourn. On the floor beside him, the small golden retriever puppy whimpered in sympathy.

More than a week ago, suspicion had set in. How could he  explain it? A different use of words…not something you could explain to anyone else. But somehow, it seemed forced. It wasn’t right.

From “The Coffee Tin”:

Jess walked over to the dog and lowered the cup to his level. “Drink this,” she said.

The little dog moved forward with caution, and began to lap frantically. Jess had to keep tipping the cup as the water level went down.

She tried to recall his name. Something cutesy, she remembered. Muffy? No, that was the Maltese in the corner house.

She thought back to the old woman. What name had she yelled from the top of the stairs? Lucky! That was it.

Well little guy, you haven’t been lucky for either of us.

 

Lisa DeNikolits

Blood and Apricots and Mad Dog and the Sea Lion, both by Lisa De Nikolits

Lisa De Nikolits is the award-winning author of seven novels that explore crime, religion, psychotherapy and relationship challenges. She is a master of noir crime fiction.

In “Blood and Apricots”, a family adopts a dog with a dark provenance and in “Mad Dog and the Sea Lion”, two sisters plot to take down a ruthless crime boss.

 

From “Blood and Apricots”:

“What do you think happened?” my mother asked in a low voice.

She pressed the lighter into the dashboard, waited for a few seconds, lit a cigarette and passed it to my father. Then she lit one for herself and inhaled deeply.

“His breath stinks,” I said, shifting away from the dog who was sharing the backseat  of the Volkswagen Beetle with me and my sister.

My sister put her arm around the dog. “I love him.” She drew him closer, and I moved as far away from both of them as I could.

My father looked grim. The skin across his beautiful hands was stretched tight, and he gripped the steering wheel as if it might get away from him. He didn’t say anything, just smoked now and then.

And from “Mad Dog and the Sea Lion”:

He paused to take a breath. “The whole Esposito family was  hoods. The  father had done time, the third brother was in prison, the two sisters were thieves. But the mother was behind the whole thing. Mothers. The root of all evil, if you ask me.”

He fell silent and turned to look at Mad Dog Esposito again.  I thought I had lost him, and I struggled to think of something to say. I panicked. Things had seemed to be going really well, but now they  had come to a grinding halt. My sister had given me a bunch of lines to use but I couldn’t remember any of them. My mind was a complete blank, and I felt close to tears. I was going to ruin this before it even started.

 

See you in September, Readers!

 

 

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Mesdames Abroad Part 3: Follow Your Love

This is the third in our series of travel blogs by the Mesdames. This month we feature Mme. Caro Soles, whose most recent novel, A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky, was published this spring. Here  Caro shares her  passion for opera and the ballet, the inspiration for much of her writing.

Follow Your Love! or Why I Love Opera Tours

Caro Soles

Caro Soles

By Caro Soles

I have always loved the theatre. I love just going into the buildings, letting the atmosphere wrap around me! Even our quite new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with its warm wood and airy light pouring in all those huge windows is exciting. But so much more are the old history-soaked theatres of Europe.

When I was young, many, many decades ago, I travelled with my mother for over a year, visiting England, France, and finally touring through Spain to come to rest in Barcelona, where a world- renowned ophthalmologist was going to take a look at my eyes to see if I was a candidate for eye-surgery. That part is not really germane to the story, except as an explanation of sorts as to why we were doing this ‘Grand Tour’ sort of thing in the first place!

 

While in London, we went to Covent Garden and I saw my first opera in that lovely theatre. It was La Traviata, and although I was familiar with the music, the performance lifted me right back to the 19th century. Luckily this was before the era of so much experimenting with modernization of productions. After that we went to theatres in the west end to see some plays– Sheridan comes to mind– and again the buildings themselves contributed to the experience. This was long before the building of the Globe, by the way. This was the 1950s: there was still some rationing and bombsites were visible around every corner. But the theatres were flourishing in all their glory!

In France we made it several times to La Comédie Française and bathed in the glories of the French Alexandrine. Though at the time I did not get more than about a third, like the audience the plays were written for, I knew my classic mythology! We went to some ballet, too, at the incredible Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera and one of the grandest theatres I have ever been in, and that is saying something!

In Spain the theatre I remember from those days was the Liceo in Barcelona.  Have been back there since several times for opera, but this first time it was Spanish dancing, Antonio and Rosario as I recall, and they were amazing! Catalan was forbidden under Franco, of course, so there was not a speck of it around.

I have traveled in Europe many times since, visiting friends, doing research in the Comédie Française for my thesis, but I didn’t start seriously seeking out opera on my travels until my brother began organizing trips for opera-lovers in London and Toronto. I had never gone on any organized tours before, thinking it would be too much like being shuffled about like cattle, but going with this group, many of whom were familiar to me from the opera here, was different. We did not hop from place to place, with no real time to get to know the atmosphere of the cities and towns we visited. There was time to sit in cafes and people-watch, time to wander, time to get familiar with the byways, as well as the highways.

Best of all, there was the chance to see rarely performed opera, like the one we saw in Prague, The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov; and the amazing experience of being in the elegant but small gem of a theatre where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni, also in Prague. And Venice, in the wonderful Teatro La Fenice, for Traviata again, ironically the Toronto production in modern dress, with Violeta wandering around in her black satin slip in the last act, dragging her mink coat behind her.

And then there is the incomparable Saltzberg Festival! It is very difficult to get good tickets so going with a group is the easiest way to do it. This is a formal event, which does much to lift the experience! Imagine yourself in your long dress wandering through the elegant crowds of Austrians, dressed in silk and satin and velvet versions of their national consumes, carrying your champagne out into the cobbled courtyard at intermission, as the moon rises over the battlements of a castle. Around you the polyglot crowd ebbs and flows, discussing the production. And these productions tend to be amazing! The singers are all superb, of course and the directors outdo themselves in their efforts to catch the bravos of the opera-lovers. It does not always work! Don Giovanni shooting up in the park comes to mind. It’s a production one would never forget!

I could go on and on, waxing poetic about theatres, opera, and travel, but I think I have made my point! I love it all: the trips, the music, the old buildings with their wonderful atmosphere of bygone days, but I will spare you. I leave you with this photo of me at Saltzberg, about to head out for yet another wonderful evening in Europe.

 

 

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13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories – Part One!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be giving readers a sample bite from the stories by each of the authors featured in our new anthology, 13 Claws.

The stories range from cozy to true noir. Are our animal friends our protectors or predators? Angels or demons? Read these engaging tales to find out!

 

Cathy Astolfo

The Outlier by Catherine Astolfo

Catherine Astolfo’s is the author of many popular crime fiction novels and a winner of the Arthur Ellis Short Story award. In crafting “The Outlier”, Catherine was inspired by a visit to Newfoundland and the strange folk who take refuge there to become hermits. As you might expect, her tale takes an especially dark turn…

 

I was comin’ back from one of those voyages to the city when we were stopped on the highway by a rollover.

From out of the damaged back end of the truck, down the road trotted a whole bunch of pigs. They’d been hauling them off to the bacon factory.

Only Marvin made it as far as my car. The rest of the porcine escapees got recaptured, run over by traffic on the other side, or disappeared into the brush. I watched this big guy waddle along the side of the highway, head up, going who knew where. He was simply scramblin’ fast as he could in the opposite direction of that truck.

Thing is, I didn’t think about what I did. I certainly didn’t expect the result I got, either. I admired that pig’s determination to get away so I leaned over and opened my passenger door. And into the old car hopped Marvin.

As it turns out, pigs make great pets. They’re clean, smart, they’ll eat whatever’s on offer, and they like people.

 

Rosemary Aubert

Kitty Claws Saves the Day by Rosemary Aubert

Rosemary has won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel and Best Short Story. She is the author of the popular Ellis Portal crime fiction novels. In “Kitty Claws Saves the Day”, Rosemary explores the perils of a senior citizen living in a low-rent apartment building and the pro’s and con’s of a kitty companion…

 

I thought at first that it was the cry of a child. Great gasping screams only a few feet from my doorstep sounded through the door itself and echoed down the narrow outer hall, which, though thickly carpeted, seemed to absorb none of the sound.

So, of course, I went to the door and carefully opened it.

The second I did so, the wailing stopped and I found, staring up at me, the most beautiful pair of blue-green cat eyes I had ever seen. I also saw in those eyes a look I’d never seen in an animal before. Odd as it sounds, I’d have called that look sweet cunning .

 

Jane Burfield

There Be Dragons by Jane Burfield

Jane Burfield’s debut short story won the Bony Pete Award and she has never looked back. Most recently, her short fiction in the Edgar Allan Poe tribute anthology, Nevermore, was singled out for critical praise. In “There Be Dragons”, Jane turns her hand to young adult fiction in a light-hearted, mysterious tale that we hope will grow into a series.

 

“There be dragons,” Katie read aloud from the illustration. As she squinted at the map in the old book, the creatures that illustrated the manuscript swirled. A soft green glow lit the map from within. Startled, Katie let the book slip from her fingers onto the dusty desktop.

“We’re not supposed to touch that book,” Georgie mumbled. Ever since their mother had died, he’d spoken in soft whispers.

“I know, Georgie.” She sat in the chair behind the carved oak desk and turned over another page. “Where do you think the dragons lived? I’m not sure I believe in dragons. Maybe they lived a long time ago.”

“Of course, there are dragons,” Georgie murmured. “Mother told us about them. She showed me one once. I remember going out to the garden with her. We ran around the pond. There was a splashing sound, and a dark shadow came out of the water... I think it was a dragon.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mesdames Abroad Part Two: Cruising with Crime on My Mind

This month we present Mme. Catherine Astolfo in the second of our series of travel blogs. She describes the delights of her recent visit to the Baltic.

Cathy Astolfo

As a mystery/psychological suspense writer, I have the what-if-someone-did-this-and-why gene. Therefore I am compelled to think about crime, nefarious schemes or horrific evil even as I vacation.

In May, I went on the trip of a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to cruise, I highly recommend this one! We travelled along the Baltic Sea (Norwegian Cruise Lines) from Denmark, to Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and back to Denmark. It was spectacular and excellent fodder for my imagination.

 

 

Sinister rocking horse

 

In Copenhagen, Denmark, my companions and I toured the Tivoli Gardens, (the inspiration for Disneyland). But what do I photograph? A rocking horse, trapped in the tower of an ancient building. My criminal mind goes into overdrive. What’s the horse doing there? Why is it framed by darkness? What horror befell the child who used to ride it? (Because of course it has to be something evil.)

Spooky wind turbines

 

 

 

As we cruise the sea, I am haunted by the wind turbines. Somehow they are wrapped in mystery, not mere fog.

 

 

 

Sachsenhausen

Our first stop is the coast of Germany, where we took a train to Oranienburg and Berlin. I have convinced my friends to visit a concentration camp with me. I want to pay tribute to the victims. I want to feel the horror. In Sachsenhausen, we tour the places of degradation and death with respect and disbelief. How can people be so evil? How does this happen? Why does the cruelty continue to occur? The roots of my writing – the desire to understand, the desire to have control over the outcome in fiction at least – are essentially explorations of the human condition.

 

 

Tallinn, Estonia, feeds my writing in a different way. My companions and I meet my online friend, favourite blogger, author-promoter, Inga Kupp-Silberg (http://www.ingasilberg.com), who lives in Estonia. She kindly tours us around the spectacular medieval town.

 

 

 

 

St. Petersburg, Russia, is breathtaking in every way. I am drawn into a history I have loved, it seems, forever. The fascinating life of Catherine the Great (obviously) and Nicholas and Alexandra, the latter an almost classic mystery.  At times I turn away from the opulence and wonder about the people who looked out these windows centuries ago.

Did they consider the poverty of their subjects? Did they know the foundations upon which they governed were essentially evil and greedy? Were they simply overwhelmed by the size of the crimes, unable to change a thing, or were they content and pampered and ill-advised? Is their state of mind accurately portrayed by the statue holding a severed head – a monument that they thought was appropriate for their garden?

Catherine the Great’s writing desk

Catherine the Great’s writing desk looks so much like mine that I shiver. I imagine her skeletal touch on my shoulder.

Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mosaic face gazes down at us in the Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood. What does he see? Was he a saint or a sinner?

In Sweden, I look up at the clouds swirling around the clock tower crowning city hall, and I think of dark and stormy nights and the evil that lurks.

If you’d like to hear about the less criminal side of my trip, you can always tune into my blog: www.katywords.blogspot.com where the travel posts are still arriving.

And lest you think I am a sinister and serious gal, I did have to include a couple of pictures of me having fun, too. It’s the inner writer person who’s mysterious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mesdames on the Move: July /August 2017

The Mesdames of Mayhem are taking it easy this summer to laze in the sun like our kitty companion here, to travel and to write, write, write!

Throughout the summer, we’ll be featuring more blogs on how we’ve combined our love of writing with our love of travel.

We are looking forward to a busy fall with Word on the Street, Bouchercon 2017, the launch of Mme Lisa De Nikolits’ new book, readings at libraries and the Toronto Bootmakers and most of exciting of all –  the publication and launch party for our third anthology, 13 Claws!

 

THE BIG REVEAL – THE BOOK COVER FOR 13 CLAWS!

 

The Mesdames are delighted to introduce the winner and two finalists of our contest for first-time writers of crime fiction – with a preview of their stories!

 

Winner: Mary M. Patterson for Night Vision

Bio: Even though Malachi, the hero of Night Vision, is a cat,  Mary confides that she’s never owned a cat, because for many years she bred show canaries and tropical fish. She’s actually a dog lover! She used to write the Basset Hound newsletter, known as All Ears for obvious reasons, as well as being a regular contributor to the Canadian Kennel Club magazine. Besides writing, she loves to paint, do pottery and engage in extreme gardening.

 

A sneak preview: 

As the man hung up the phone, he turned to Malachi. “Got to get some sleep. I’m back on duty again tonight. Want to come with me? I could sure use some company out there.”

Malachi purred his assent, though he was fairly sure his message wasn’t understood. “Sure I’ll come along, if you’ll guarantee some refreshments,” he meowed.

That evening, as the man donned his coat, Malachi planted himself firmly at the front door, ready for an evening’s outing. That was one of the drawbacks of this new man. Malachi was never let outside for the night, his favorite time to be out on his own.

“Hey! That’s right! You can be my partner tonight. Two sets of eyes are better than one, they say, and for a private eye, that goes double!”

Partner! That appealed to Malachi.

**

Runner-up: Rosalind Place for Dana’s Cat

Bio: Rosalind was born in England and emigrated to Canada at age five. An interpreter by profession, she is a published writer of literary short stories and has just completed her first novel. Dana’s Cat, which is written entirely in dialogue, is her first foray into the mystery genre and she is thrilled to be part of 13 Claws.

 

A Sneak Preview:

You know, Cat, I haven’t talked to him in what, 20 years maybe? That’s the third call in three days, and now he wants to meet for coffee. I guess it’s the house going up for sale.

He was heartbroken when Dana left him. I used to go over sometimes. She didn’t have any friends or family, he said. No one else he could talk to about her but me. Grief had made him gentle, and the way he spoke…well, I believed he really loved her. It made me regret all the times I’d thought badly of him.

We’d been secret friends, Dana and me. She didn’t have to tell me. It was the way she came over only when he wasn’t there, and never called or invited me to join them or anything. Jack had a temper—I knew that from work. And there was something else about him, you know? Charming as all get out, but there was something you couldn’t quite put your finger on that made you want to leave the room.

Oh, he was grief-stricken when she left him. And then he wasn’t, had no interest in talking about her anymore. So in the end, it was a relief when he sold the place and moved on. A relief that he moved on, that is. Him selling, well, that just meant it was his to sell, you know? Which meant someone, somewhere, decided Dana was dead.

**

 

Runner-up: Marilyn Kay for That Damn Cat

Bio: Marilyn debuts two crime short stories this fall: “That Damn Cat” in 13 Claws and “Journey into the Dark” in the Bouchercon 2017 Passport to Murder anthology. She began writing as a contributor to the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, before working as a business journalist, then in government communications and social media coaching. She is an executive member of Sisters in Crime – Toronto.

A sneak preview:

Bile burned Detective Constable Maureen’s throat and mouth; she wished she hadn’t bought that Starbucks coffee.

Detective Sergeant Lou  continued, “Probable time of death was sometime on the Sunday night. Recovered nail scrapings and some fine cement dust powdering parts of her body indicate possible confinement in an unfinished or partially finished basement or a garage.

“We’re extending door-to-door canvassing to the neighborhoods surrounding the entire Small’s Creek ravine network.”

As an afterthought, he added, “A further consideration is to look for cats. Forensics found cat dander and a few long orange cat hairs stuck in the victim’s dark brown hair.”

“So we’ll be interviewing all the cats in the neighborhood, too?” Detective Constable Joe quipped. There was a collective groan. But as Lou allocated assignments, Maureen could see crooked smiles on a number of her colleagues’ faces as they grabbed their notebooks and proceeded to their tasks.

**

Rosemary Aubert

News Flash: Mme. Rosemary Aubert is not taking the summer off from readings! On Mon. July 24th, she will be at the Pape-Danforth Library, 701 Pape Ave. at 6:00 p.m. to discuss mystery writing and her recent book of short stories, The Midnight Ferry to Palermo.

 

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Mesdames Abroad- Part One

Welcome to our new series of travel blogs, Mesdames Abroad, looking at different destinations with a writer’s eye. This month we feature Mme. Catherine Dunphy and her experience running a Scottish bookshop. A retired journalist (do journalists ever really retire?), Cathy is the author of Morgentaler, A Difficult Hero, which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, two YA novels and numerous radio and television scripts. Her short stories appear in Thirteen and Thirteen o’Clock.

THE TOWN THAT BELIEVES IN BOOKS

Cathy Dunphy

I have just discovered the most perfect place on earth. I was there a week and it rained – hard – most days, but I didn’t care. I was in Wigtown, named Scotland’s National Book Town–an honour the townspeople fought hard for because they thought books would save them.

Isn’t this wonderful? Imagine a town that believes in books.

Let me backtrack a little: In the summer of 2015, I came across a squib on the CBC Arts website about how you can have an AirBnB holiday at The Open Book, a second-hand bookstore. You work in the store and live above it.  Sold, I said. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid reading Enid Blyton under the bedcovers.

The fact that it was in southwest Scotland? Let me just say I can still sing most of the score of Brigadoon.

My husband was not as enthusiastic and this may be why it took two weeks of incessant nagging for him to book the sucker – and by that time the first available week was December 11-18, 2016. We were lucky to get in. These days The Open Book is booked three years in advance.

People come from all over the world to be  booksellers in Wigtown. A log upstairs in the cheerful apartment overflows with their thrilled notations of great restaurants in town, great people in town, day trips, the superb shortbread delivered by Nanette, and, of course the customers.

We didn’t have too many of those, I’m afraid. The week before Christmas is the slowest time of the year for secondhand book sellers, I was told by the other bookstore owners.

But we weren’t lonely. Wigtowners were as curious about us as we were about them and they took to dropping in when we finally got around to opening up the place. That was usually around 1 p.m., right after placing our take-away orders at The Rendezvous across the street for their soup of the day and their wonderful burnt bacon rolls.

By our second day, their staff were dashing through the rain to deliver us our food. That’s the kind of town it was. One of the pubs had a blazing fire and a good wine list and a bartender who refused to take a tip. The bar also had Ming Books, Scotland’s only night- time bookstore. Meaning it wasn’t open in the day.

Wigtown won a contest to become Scotland’s National Book Town in 1997. They won it because they needed it – the creamery and the brewery had both closed up — and because it was a pretty medieval town undiscovered by tourists.

Plenty of booksellers flocked to Wigtown to set up shop. At its prime there were 22 book or book related establishments. Not so now. But those who stayed seem to be doing all right. The Book Store says it is Scotland’s largest used book seller and boasts of more than a mile of shelving. The ReadingLasses has one of the country’s finest selections of lesbian literature. Beltie Books stocks books about Scottish nationalism; The Old Bank Book Store specializes in sheet music.

They are all sustained by the Wigtown Book Festival which draws thousands of readers and not a few authors to Wigtown each September.

Cathy minding the store!

So where does The Open Book fit in? It’s run by the Wigtown Book Festival as a non-profit. That doesn’t mean it’s not a bona-fide bookstore.  It’s cash only and there’s a lined school workbook where we recorded all sales.  About 6,000 tomes are shoved onto shelves that line the nooks and crannies of this small space.  There are some interesting reads by obscure explorers that my husband loved and a bio of Virginia Wade that tennis- loving me devoured. Our first customer bought three books for his grandchildren. He got them for a steal because I knew I couldn’t make change.

I confessed this when one of the Festival volunteers  dropped by towards the end of our week. He just shrugged. “But you’ll have been having a fine time with all this here,” he said gesturing to the books on display, on the table, stacked on the floor, on the shelves.

“God, yes,” I said, looking around. I had been living with these books for a week. I was going to miss every one of them.

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Mesdames on the Move: June 2017

June is a busy month for the Mesdames leading up to our summer break when we’ll be doing what authors do – WRITING! 

Things get super-hot again in the fall with Word on the Street and Bouchercon 2017, the crime fiction world conference. And of course, the launch of our latest anthology, 13 CLAWS!

Stay tuned this summer for our 13 Claws cover reveal and details about our launch. You are all invited!

A Very Special Guest!

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Sisters in Crime celebrates its 30th anniversary this month: that’s 30 years of successfully promoting and supporting work by women crime fiction authors.  As part of the celebration, Toronto SinC welcomes a very special guest, investigative journalist and best-selling author, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank is also a former President of SinC’s Mothership.

On Thursday, June 15th, Hank will be signing books and meeting fans at Chapters/Indigo, 2300 Yonge St. from 3 to 6 pm, including her latest bestseller, Say No More.

 Afterwards Hank will be SinC’s guest of honour at their Jun meeting, Orchardview Branch, Toronto Public Library, 7 pm.  This is a rare opportunity to meet this distinguished investigative reporter who has helped hundreds of people and won multiple Emmy’s for her work.  There will also be cake!

Several Mesdames will be attending. M. H. Callway has the honour of introducing Hank to the SinC membership.

Limestone Expo!

Mmes M. H. Callway, Rosemary McCracken and Caro Soles are joining forces with Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime in the vendors’ room at Limestone Expo, the multi-genre expo being held in Kingston June 3rd and 4th.  This is the new conference’s third year and attendance and interest continues to grow.

Rosemary McCracken

M. H. Callway

Caro Soles

Caro Soles

More importantly, they will be sharing their knowledge and experience throughout the conference on the following panels: True Crime Leads to Fiction (an idea suggested by Rosemary); Driving the Reader Mad, Blurring the Lines: Cross Genres, Traditional vs Small Press vs Indie Publishing,  Killer Stories and When to Listen and When to Ignore Writing Advice. On Saturday, June 3rd, 1 pm, Caro gives her workshop on Writing the Historical Mystery.

Books, books, books!

Caro’s new book, A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky’s, is now available in both print and digital form. This  historical mystery, set during WWI, centres on the relationship between young Morgan Vanheusen and the celebrated dancer as well as kidnapping, mad Russians and the dark side of New York.

 Readings and Events!

Melodie Campbell

On Thursday, June 8th, 7 pmMme Melodie Campbell will be giving a talk on Advances and Royalties and Agents, Oh My! The Business of Publishing.  Melodie generously shares her knowledge with readers and aspiring writers through her creative writing course at Sheridan College. Be sure to catch her at the Burlington Public Library, Brant Hills Branch 2255 Brant Street, Burlington Ontario.

Lisa De Nikolits

Also on Thursday, June 8th, 7 pm, one of our favorite events, Noir at the Bar, Toronto, takes place at The Wallace Gastropub, 1954 Yonge St. just north of Davisville. Mme Lisa De Nikolits will be reading along with fellow crime writers Ryan Aldred, Rick Blechta, K.J. Howe, J. Kent Messum and Helen Nelson.

On Tuesday, June 13th, 2 pm, Mme M. H. Callway will be at the Beaches Branch, TPL, 2161 Queen Street East to give her workshop and encouragement to aspiring writers, How to Get Published.

And a week later, on Tuesday, June 20th, 6 pm, Madeleine will be visiting Mme Rosemary McCracken’s Novel Writing II class at George Brown College to share her knowledge on how to get published with Rosemary’s writing students.

Rosemary and Cathy at WOTS

On Wednesday, June 28th, 2 pm, the Mesdames visit the Annette Branch, TPL, 145 Annette St.  Mmes M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits, Catherine Dunphy, Rosemary McCracken and Caro Soles will be reading from their latest works and discussing crime fiction with readers and fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learn With the Mesdames Part 5

The Student Turned Teacher by Rosemary McCracken

This is another in our series on Mesdames who teach and also learn along with their students. This month we feature Mme. Rosemary McCracken, author of the Pat Tierney series. Rosemary’s most recent book is”Raven Lake” and she is at work on a fourth book in the series. She is also the author of numerous short stories, including The Queen-sized Bed which will be included in the  2017 Bouchercon anthology,  A Passport to Murder.

 

Rosemary McCracken

I’m several weeks into teaching Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel in George Brown College’s spring program, and it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever had. The course is designed for adult writers who have started or are seriously planning a novel. Most have taken the college’s Novel Writing I: How to Start Writing Your Novel or an equivalent. The current class is a perfect size: eight committed students. They’re tackling crime fiction, romance and women’s fiction. No vampires or post-apocalyptic works—just as I was getting quite attached to those vampires!

When I was a student…

What I find so cool about teaching novel writing at George Brown is that, back in the 1990s, I was one of these students. Up to that point, I’d dabbled in fiction writing, but I needed a big push to commit to learning the craft. Ironically, that push came in the form of a course on how to make sense of investments, financial statements and taxation.

I had just started an editing position on the news desk at the Financial Post, and it had been strongly suggested that I take the Canadian Securities Course, the first step in training to become a financial planner or an investment manager. It’s a gruelling course, especially if you have a full-time job. For six months, when I wasn’t at work I was seated at my dining room table working on assignments and studying for a marathon three-hour final examination. I became thoroughly sick of my seat at that table and my view of the dining room wall. But as the final exam loomed closer, I vowed that when it was all over I would continue sitting in that chair—but working on something I’d always wanted to do but never committed to: writing fiction.

The CSC exam was held in the spring of 1992. To celebrate the end of the course, I enrolled in a creative writing course at George Brown College that started the following week.

What Inspired Me

Over the next few years, I took several of the college’s writing courses: short story writing with Nancy Kilpatrick, novel writing with Caro Soles, mystery writing with the late John North and dialogue writing with Nika Rylski. All terrific teachers and I learned a lot from them. I even saw my first short story published in the Winter 1996 issue of Room of One’s Own magazine (now titled Room).

And Now a Teacher

In 2003, I returned to George Brown as an instructor, teaching writing for magazines. I left after two semesters to devote more time to writing fiction.

Last year, I returned again to teach Novel Writing II.

I look at my class this term and I remember how I felt as a George Brown student: hesitant and unsure, wondering if I was attempting something I wasn’t cut out for. But there was always the hope that I’d make it.

The publishing landscape has changed enormously since then. Publishers have merged and dissolved, and few major publishers accept new writers. But a number of small publishing houses have emerged in recent years, and self-publishing is now an option.

Writing requires a long-term commitment and a thick skin. I’ve seen many writers give up. Financial, family and health reasons prevent some from continuing to write. And many grow frustrated with having their submissions rejected by agents and publishers.

I address this in my class. I share stories from my writing journey. I tell my students to consistently do the work of writing their stories and novels, and not compare themselves with others who seem to be getting ahead more quickly. Every writer has his or her own pace, and some stories take longer to tell than others.

I tell them to set achievable goals for this class. I suggest they aim to complete their novel’s outline, write another 100 pages, and have five to eight pages critiqued in every class. That’s a lot of ground they can cover in 12 weeks.

Just as my teachers spurred me on, my job is to motivate my students to keep doing the work now and in the years ahead. Because that’s the way writers become authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mesdames on the Move-May 2017

AND THE WINNER IS:

For our upcoming anthology, 13 Claws, the Mesdames ran a contest for authors who had never before published a crime fiction story. We had a large number of quality entries so the decision was not easy.

We’re delighted to announce that the winning story is:

NIGHT VISION by Mary M. Patterson

The runners up:

 DANA’S CAT by Rosalind Place

THAT DAMN CAT by Marilyn Kay

All three stories will appear in 13 Claws – and we welcome Mary, Rosalind and Marilyn to a life of crime…writing!

 

UPCOMING EVENTS:

The Arthur Ellis Award Gala

The biggest annual event for Canadian crime writers, the Arthur Ellis Award Gala, takes place on Thursday, May 25th at the Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, Toronto.

The CWC annual general meeting will be held at 5 pm, followed by a reception at 6 pm. The awards banquet, where the winners of the 2016 Arthurs are announced, will begin at 7 pm.

Tickets are available through Crime Writers of Canada. Contact Vicky Blechta at info@crimewriterscanada.com

 

The Bony Blithe Minicon

The Bony Blithe Award was created by  Cheryl Freedman and Caro Soles to celebrate the best in Canadian light mysteries. This year’s winner will be announced on Friday, May 26th as part of a new all-day event, the Bony Blithe Minicon.

 

Caro Soles

Cheryl Freedman

Cheryl Freedman

The Bony Blithe Minicon will feature panels, discussion groups, loot bags and good eats. The fun begins at 11 am and runs through to 9 pm at the High Park Club, 100 Indian Rd, Toronto.

The winner of the 2016 Bony Blithe award will be announced over dinner.

Mmes Jane Burfield, M. H. Callway, Melodie Campbell and Rosemary McCracken have already registered and are ready to party! Tickets are available through the Bony Blithe website here.

 

Publication and Author News

Rosemary McCracken

Melodie Campbell

Big congratulations to Rosemary McCracken! Her story, The Queen-sized Bed, will appear in this year’s Bouchercon Anthology, A Passport to Murder.

And Melodie Campbell’s launch of her latest Goddaughter adventure, the Bootlegger’s Goddaughter, was a smash success. Mel donated all her book sales proceeds for the evening to the Hamilton Literary Council.

The best reward: two formerly illiterate women who had learned to read via the literacy council, read a section of dialogue from Mel’s new book. Mel presented each of the ladies with a full set of Goddaughter novellas .

 

Lisa De Nikolits

Mme Lisa De Nikolits received exciting news this week: in November she will be the Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto.

Lisa will focus on 16 Shades of Noir, where together with fellow crime writers, she’ll examine noir crime fiction from its origins to  modern day interpretations.

 

 

Events and Readings

M. H. Callway

On Thursday, May 18th, 6:30 pm,. the Mesdames are welcomed back to Mt. Pleasant Library, 599 Mt. Pleasant Rd, Toronto for an evening of crime fiction! Mmes Rosemary Aubert, M. H. Callway, Mel Campbell and Lisa De Nikolits will be reading from their latest books and discussing Canadian crime fiction with mystery fans.

Catherine Astolfo

Cathy Astolfo

Cathy Dunphy

On Tuesday, May 30th, 2 pm, the Mesdames pay their first visit to the Beaches Library, 2161 Queen Street East, Toronto. The event was organized by Catherine Dunphy who will be moderating the panel: Catherine Astolfo, M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits and Rosemary McCracken.

 

More News

And an sneak preview of June – another very busy month. M. H. Callway, Rosemary McCracken and Caro Soles will be attending authors at Limestone Expo in Kingston, Ontario, June 3rd and 4th. Limestone Expo celebrates all genre writing from romance, crime,  fantasy, speculative fiction and horror. This year both Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime will have booths  to celebrate crime fiction.

For more information on registering for Limestone Expo use this link here.

 

 

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Learn With the Mesdames Part 4: A Pleasant Summer Sojourn!

Summer Learning: A Most Pleasant Sojourn 

By Rosemary Aubert

This is another in our series of blogs by Mesdames who teach and also learn, along with their students. This month we feature Mme. Rosemary Aubert, author of the acclaimed  Ellis Portal series. Rosemary is a two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis award for crime fiction, winning in both the novel and short story categories. A collection of her short stories, The Midnight Boat to Palermo, was published in the fall of 2016  by Carrick Publishing.

For ten years I had the pleasure of conducting a course on novel writing in the summer. It was an intense all-day, five-day workshop for “mature” students in a community college near a small Ontario city surrounded by beautiful waterways, rural landscapes and romantic islands. Students stayed on campus at residences and often met for breakfast, lunch, and at least on one evening of the week, for a special dinner shared with students studying other subjects, such as art.

Among the many teaching experiences I have had, which began over fifty years ago when I was a twenty-year old teaching religious instruction, this experience was surely one of the best. Not only were the learners extremely eager, but the atmosphere was just the right combination of serious and casual. We wore leisure clothes, we gathered around a table to teach and learn, we shared coffees… It was great.

Of course, I learned a great deal about what is required to make such a comfortable atmosphere of maximum benefit to my students.

What are the main challenges in teaching mature students?

Here are a few things I discovered:

  • People who engage in vacation learning have looked forward to your course it for a long time—often from one summer to the next in the same way as people look forward to their single week at the cottage. For this reason, it’s essential to understand that expectations must be clear from the course advertising and that those expectations must be met or exceeded so that there is no disappointment.

 

  • Many of these students have very limited time to spend on their learning and they’ve chosen to spend it with you, so you’ll want them to feel that their time is well spent.

 

  • Unlike school and university students, these students are primarily customers, and like all customers, they expect to get what they pay for, and the provider must expect active resistance if they don’t get it!

 

  • Unlike school students, adult learners are equals with each other and with you. This has to be borne in mind in order to elicit the confidence necessary in the adult teacher-student relationship.

 

What strategies work really well?

I have always found that highly interactive teaching methods have worked best with adult learners. We sit around a table, we discuss material when it’s presented by the teacher, we engage in questions, opinion-sharing and debate. This means the teacher must be fully familiar with all aspects of topics presented but must also be willing to learn a thing or two once in a while!

 Such a highly interactive method of teaching guarantees that the topics studied are those most interesting to the students. However, the teacher must always have a definite plan that can be steered back toward. You always have to be aware of keeners, know-it-alls, and would-be executives who try to steer the other students toward their objectives rather than yours.

 

What is the best advice for teachers of mature students?

 It pays to be really nice but to always clearly know what your objective is and what you want your students to be thinking about. Sort of like a real estate agent…

 A successful teaching/learning experience only requires two things: One who knows and one who wants to.

 I can’t think of anywhere where you would be more likely to encounter this situation than in a well-prepared short summer course for adult learners.

 

 

 

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